White Silence | A Personal Reflection

I originally wrote this post about three weeks ago.

Then, a week later, after still not having acted by way of the dangerously comforted fear of ‘doing it wrong,’ I was confronted by another account.

I was listening to Layla F. Saad’s Good Ancestor podcast, specifically the episode featuring Nicole Cardoza who said this, “Taking the first step enables you to iterate on the step that you took, in your next step. So, just think about it as, ‘as long as I start something then I have something to improve.’ But if you never start then you can’t make it better. So just fucking do it.”

And I still didn’t do it.

‘It’ being sharing this reflection and taking accountability. Until now.

In reading Layla F. Saad’s ‘Me and White Supremacy,’ I was slapped in the face with her truth telling that silence is violence.

The above anecdote is included for context, because it highlights two things:

1. I do not deny how I continue to uphold and live within the white privilege and supremacy I maintain by not using my voice or passing the mic, and in turn, causing harm to other people.
2. I am not bullying myself into submission because of that. These are uncomfortable realizations, but we cannot change that which we do not acknowledge. AND I promise you that no meaningful change has ever come from a place of comfort or complicity.

So, below I share the words of three-weeks-ago me, who wrote with such conviction, and even still didn’t have the understanding of the immense importance of actually going there…

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou

I have made a mistake.

I have inadvertently hurt others, and presented as apathetic on a matter that impacts me implicitly, and my friends/fellow humans explicitly. I write these words knowing that it will still be littered with mistakes. I write this knowing I cannot disassociate from my own white privilege. I write this with the acute awareness that each sentence so far starts with “I,” even though the intent is to shed focus from myself. But I write this knowing that the alternative of not leaning into these mistakes is worse.

In the resurgence of the Black Live Matters movement in the last few months I have taken as many steps that I knew how to by way of signing petitions online, listening to key voices and changing the scape of my social media feeds. The intent being that I am everyday educated and re-educated, unlearning and trying to comprehend my role, my privilege, my part of the problem and my responsibility to act (I recount this only as fact, not as deserving of a gold star).

And still, I fell short in that I didn’t publicly share these powerful teachings that were igniting me. What a privilege to be able to sit back and say, “I’ll do this for myself,” when it’s not about myself at all. The entire fact is this being about the experience of people other than me.

I told myself that my insular approach was because I needed to first comprehend and then share. To first educate and then speak. But the fact of the matter is I was scared of being judged for preformative ally-ship. I was scared that people would think I wasn’t genuine in my efforts or my approach and so I decided to keep it to myself. What a privilege. And what a mistake.

I told myself that I needed to do something bigger. That once I was positioned to reach a more widely viewed audience, or be in a position to run my own company, hire my own staff, let people who actually know what the fuck is up to tell me what the fuck is up, THEN I’d be able to act out the things that I felt I couldn’t right now. What a privilege to trust that I’d have the time, resources and impact to be able to affect people in that way. And what a mistake.

I was aware that my voice is NOT the one to listen to, but I mistakenly took that as reason to say nothing out loud. The silent work for me is that which I’ve been doing, behind the scenes, introspectively, and in conversation with my family and peers. The mistake was to not simultaneously share the resources I was using with people in my network who I know need to do this internal work as well.

I consider myself a global citizen, and yet I acted in a very insular manner throughout this intense and monumental shift in global awareness. I ignored the fact that I do have a platform right now. I have a platform that may not be super broadly reached or widely regarded, but it’s what I have, and therefore I’m going to use it.

Self-Education is just the start. It is the faint scratch on the surface of this lifelong work that we are all accountable for, so let me be clear – this is not the end.

This is not the end.

But to start, here are some people who can say all of this better than me. Please engage with their content and follow their instruction on how to dismantle white supremacy because the world as we live in it is not okay.

Plus, we fucking know better, so let’s do better.

Instagram-Follow suggestions:

@andrearitchie
@antiracismdaily
@bl.ack.magic.wo.man
@bailproject
@decolonizemyself
@leah_braithwaite
@nicolecardoza
@tiffanymjewell
@shaunking
@wejustwill

Reading Suggestions:
(I haven’t read all of these yet so if you have copies, let’s swap + share)
How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi

Invisible No More, Andrea J. Ritchie
Letters to Marcia | A Teacher’s Guide to Anti-Racist Education, Enid Lee
Me and White Supremacy, Layla F. Saad
Stay Woke | a meditation guide for the rest of us, Justin Michael Williams
This Book is Anti-Racist, Tiffany Jewell
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge

If purchasing new, consider buying from one of these stores – linked here.

Listening Suggestions:

(With recommendations from friends)

Good Ancestor Podcast with Layla F. Saad
Lady Don’t Take No with Alicia Garza
Sandy and Nora talk politics with Sandy Hudson & Nora Loreto
The Breakdown with Shaun King
The Nod with Brittany Luse and Eric Eddings

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